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September 21, 2016

SGA elections still in limbo

Another semester, another Student Government Association (SGA) election mired in controversy.

Because of a judicial complaint filed Thursday by Sylvan senatorial candidate Brad DeFlumeri, University of Massachusetts students will have to wait at least another week before the results of the 2009 SGA general election are ratified.

The complaint alleges that the election results are invalid because there was only one elections commissioner on site at Worcester Dining Commons between 5 p.m. and 6:27 p.m. on Tuesday, which would be a violation of the bylaws of the University.

DeFlumeri’s complaint alleges that the lack of elections commissioners “represented harmful error” and “may have dissuaded potential voters from participating in the election process and therefore materially altered the outcome and nature of the voting.”

Phone calls to DeFlumeri regarding the complaint were unreturned.

The complaint will be handled by the SGA’s judiciary which, according to speaker Modesto Montero, cannot convene to rule on the complaint for a week.

“They can’t meet until seven days after the official complaint has been filed,” he said. “So they will not meet or vote until next Thursday, so the election cannot be ratified until then.”

Despite the complaint, SGA Chancellor of Elections Chris Faulkner said the instance does not constitute harmful error.

“I was told there was no line, no one was prevented from voting,” he said. “The reason it is not harmful error is because it couldn’t have changed the nature of the vote,” said Faulkner.

Faulkner said he had been assured that having one commissioner on for a brief period would not invalidate the election.

“I discussed the idea of having one commissioner for a short time period with Student Legal Services before the election, and it is not an issue because voting was not interrupted. It is up to those filing the grievance to prove harmful error,” he said.

DeFlumeri’s complaint means the results of the election, which had yet to be ratified by the SGA’s Coordinating Council, which met Wednesday, will not be certified for at least a week, meaning the fate of ballot question two, which concerned moving elections voting online, will also remain undecided for the present.
Question two passed with over 80 percent of the vote Monday and Tuesday, but questions within the SGA about its wording kept them from ratifying the election Wednesday.

Several SGA members attempted to clarify what the problem with the language on the referendum was.

“It wasn’t just a question of, ‘was the wording misleading,’ that actually was not the real question,” said outreach and education coordinator Sam Dreyfus. “The real question was that the wording that Derek [Khanna] submitted to the elections commission was different than the wording that was on the petition that people had circulated last year, so that was the reason the Coordinating Council couldn’t accept it,” he said.

Chancellor of Elections Faulkner said that, when the Coordinating Council met Wednesday, members broached concerns about the referendum’s wording.

“There were concerns about the wording, how it related to last year’s petition,” Faulkner said. “[The petition] included the same stuff, it was just worded differently, the wording had changed.”

The problem therein, according to Faulkner, is that because the wording of this year’s referendum does not match that of the petition signed last year by approximately 2,000 students, is that in changing the wording, the meaning of the petition changes, so it is as though the students had not signed the same petition as the one that was appearing on the ballot.

This prompted several high ranking SGA members to hold off on ratifying the election until they had time to examine the referendum’s wording.

Commuter senator-elect Derek Khanna, who introduced the referendum, said that he has not yet withdrawn the referendum, and plans to schedule a meeting with the Coordinating Council to present his case for why the referendum should be implemented.

“I still haven’t been given the opportunity as of yet to present the referendum from my perspective to the Coordinating Council,” he said. “I’m going to be scheduling a meeting with the Coordinating Council, because I want to settle the questions they may have about the referendum in the next few days so once [DeFlumeri’s] complaint is settled, the Coordinating Council can ratify the entire election.”

Khanna said he wants to invite all SGA members to the meeting he hopes to broker so they can all have a more informed perspective on the referendum and its implications.

“I want to be able to take on any questions that people might have about the referendum,” he said. “I want to be able to explain it and I want people to be able to ask questions so they can do the research they need to vote on it,” Khanna said.

Khanna also noted that the Coordinating Council can only ratify an election or decide to throw it out; it cannot nullify a result it disagrees with.

“They only have the ability to ratify the election, they cannot veto it,” he said. “Throwing out the election is not the same as a veto, you throw out the whole election because there was a procedural problem, not because you disagree with the result,” he said.

Speaker Montero said he believes that, despite the holdups, UMass will see online elections within the next year.

“I have a very strong feeling that by the end of the year, if not early next year, we will have voted on moving forward with online elections,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of working out some of the technical stuff, where the money’s going to come from, how we’re going to implement this new procedure and being confident that it is secure and that people are not going to break the bylaws,” said Montero.

Even if referendum question two is ultimately not ratified by the SGA, the possibility remains that online voting could again be brought forward as a standard resolution. Even though resolutions to move voting online have failed in the past, the recent success of the Students for a Democratic Voice coalition in the general elections could mean there are enough votes to pass one in the near future. It would be hard for the university’s student government to move on to other issues, considering the overwhelming support that the referendum received.

Nick Bush also contributed to this article.

Sam Butterfield can be reached at sbutterfield@dailycollegian.com.

Nick Bush can be reached at nbush@student.umass.edu.

Comments
7 Responses to “SGA elections still in limbo”
  1. Derek Khanna says:

    Just to clarify,

    The wording of the signature drive, can’t and shouldn’t be the exact same wording that appears on the ballot. This is what the CC is mad about. But it can’t and shouldn’t be the same. The petition has broad based principles. Do you support x, do you support y, do you support z. The referendum should exactly spell out how those things are done. My referendum included the By-law changes, so students new, verbatim, exactly, down to the period, what they were voting upon and what that meant.(although I should note when the Alana Caucus did a referendum on the alana Caucus seats in 04′ it simply said to create alana caucus seats, and never explained what the bylaw changes looked like, meaning that Democratic Voice went above and beyond the requirements to make sure each student knew exactly what was being changed.

    A petition can’t cover these things as often the full legislation is not fully crafted at that point with the intricacies involved. The point of the signature requirement is to avoid frivolous referendum and to make sure their is sufficient interest. Once it’s on the ballot, it’s binding. And the CC should have made their displeasure known before. It’s the Elections Commission’s job to decide if the petition is applicable, which they decided as such unanimously.

    The CC has thus far rejected the elections on partisan grounds because they did not like online elections. But by doing so, as I pointed out to them, they opened the window for Mr. Deflumeri to file. So now we have to wait for his frivolous judicial motion to be rejected to move on the question of will the CC allow for 80% of the student body’s voice to be recognized?

  2. Derek Khanna says:

    wow, the grammatical mistakes in my post confound me, I apologize.

  3. Brad DeFlumeri says:

    What about the other half of my complaint which asserts that the election is unlawful because of the unconstitutional ALANA CAUCUS and AREA GOVERNMENT-appointed seats? That wasn’t valid enough to make this story?

    Is the coordinating council really going to ratify the results next week before University Counsel has a chance to weigh in on the issues of constitutionality? I bet they don’t.

  4. Sean McNair says:

    Brad,

    Read the By-Laws. The ALANA Caucus and the Area Government seats have nothing to do with the elections. They arn’t even in Title VIII. They are seated after the elections and are a completely different issue.

  5. Drab says:

    Rather then remove the seats through the government themselves, it seems that one student has placed himself far above the others and in turn screwed over the rest of campus (minus Ed). I don’t like the ALANA seats, but at least we had a functioning senate and could help fellow RSO’s in trouble when they were around. Who knows how many student groups are going to miss scheduling interesting things because they can’t secure funds for future events because of one “super-super-super-senior” student.

    I think the term for someone who uses power for self interest is a corrupted individual, and definitely not someone I want in my Senate.

  6. Arthur P. Hastings says:

    Maybe we could all petition. right? And have Brad expelled. We sing and dance with crappy guitars out side of the SGA office and while were at it why do we as paying students to the university and go on strike. This is so old Brad takes a stance on something and its not always the most popular and the Collegian smears his name continuously in their paper. The only way to win here is to be a liberal. Nice job writing in ALL of the facts here guys. You clearly have no agenda with this one.

    P.s. I wonder if this comment will actually get posted on the article or just deleted again.

  7. Brad DeFlumeri says:

    Sean McNair,

    The impact of the ALANA appointment provision is disparately adverse and discriminatory on all non-ALANA students. It disenfranchises them during the nomination and election process and therefore makes the whole scheme violative of federal law. Go read a law book.

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